A Hiccup in Ordained Ministry

Fred Trost and Herb Davis—all combined are my middle names, latched on to Henry.

I’m thinking of them today, Friday, August 24, 2018, for a primary reason.

They, both in their own ingredient and gracious way to reflect ministry, taught me more than any combined classes at seminary.

It’s true, ever since my first step with them in July of 1966, I learned what’s most ingredient and necessary as an Ordained Minister.

Sure, intelligence, wisdom, knowing the difference between the Synoptic Gospels [Matthew, Mark, Luke] and the forcing prongs of John, knowing how to create a good sermon [making sure you have the Bible, newspaper and church roster in hand], leading classes, even when some members [not at St. Pauls but in another pastorate as senior minister] tape-recorded without permission the lectures, then got out their dissecting knives on Monday night to make sure any claim of heresy had footnotes of their heretical claims.

With this, knowing how church budgets are statements of faith and the mission of the church is beyond the church’s zip code.


HOWEVER, what I learned most frequently and deeply which is the most basic need of an ordained minister is this: pastoral care. Being WITH the members, no matter their ire or success.

That triggered within me today, and I reserve the right to be wrong, but not wrong is Senator John McCain’s decision to stop treatment for his brain cancer. It might be wrong that as of 5:15 p.m. CDT not one mention of McCain by our President. Damn, damn, damn. Heartless to the core. I could subsequently be wrong about this…if so, I apologize in my next heart beat.

I grimace also in realizing that many ministers still serving, find no value let alone function in pastoral care as a seminal value to faithful ministry.

JUST CARE! Just let the loving heart, somewhere in you, be visible and heard and received by others.

Always coming to mind is a dearest of colleagues, Dani Loving Cartwright. She and I worked together my last years as Conference Minister in Austin. Dani was the Regional Minister for the Disciples of Christ, helping hundreds and hundreds of churches throughout Texas. Diane had major surgery, was in the hospital for more than a handful of days. It was a tough time. Really tough.

Then one afternoon, as I sat bedside with Diane, I looked up. No words. No trumpets. But the joy in our hearts had no hesitance. There she stood. Dani stood at Diane’s hospital door, holding what has to be the most beautiful bouquet of flowers ever created. THAT was pastoral care. And Dani knows she pulsed our heart with depth and value. Pastoral Care…oh, PC, where art thou today?

Life for churches is grim. I know that. I’ve preached in three different churches the last month, all Disciples of Christ congregations, and in each the pangs of maybe not making it pierce their life and hope. But, then. And I maintain it’s the best Herb and Fred lesson: clergy, give a damn about your people. Be with them.

Life isn’t dependent ultimately upon anything other than God’s being with us. But, no matter what or where, to not see yourself as a partner of pastoral care with God, figuratively tears up your ordination certificate.

When Jason went down with the hematoma brain surgery on January 7, I knew immediately where pastoral care came from. Was never wrong. The calls, the notes, the fervent prayers with me on the phone.

I also had a hunch where Diane and I wouldn’t hear…and chagrin piling on…I was never wrong.

So sad.

Pastoral Care, when it’s missing in action, is the first cause for churches to wonder if they matter.


John McCain. My prayers are with you and your family. I so respect you and hope you know when you move to the heavenly world you will be at peace and the well-being of your soul will never languish. Never.


About Mark H Miller

Diane and I live in Leander, Texas. This past June 17, 2015 I celebrated the 49th anniversary of my ordination. We returned to Texas after three years in Washington, during which I served as interim minister in Bellevue/Eastgate and Mercer Island. Am planning to begin a 5th novel that will have my protagonist, Tricia Gleason, serve a year in licensed ministry in Snoqualmie, Washington. The novel, "The Lemon Drop Didn't Melt," will find Tricia wrestling with ministry challenges. None of which more daunting than someone wanting her breathing to stop. All the published novels are available on Amazon and Amazon Kindle under Mark Henry Miller. A primary goal in our return to Texas is to make sure grandchildren get lots of attention--here and in Chicago and Washington, D.C. Traveling is definitely an activity that will not slow down. With that, of course, fishing will happen. To that the t-shirt is apt, "I fish; therefore I am." In addition to novels, the book of Blogs, "Voice Of My Heart," is also available on Amazon.
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